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Targeting Tumors With Electricity

Targeting Tumors With Electricity

A shocking noninvasive treatment for skin cancer uses electrical pulses.

Targeting Tumors With Electricity

Thursday, September 18, 2014 - 16:45

Karin Heineman, ISTV Executive Producer

(Inside Science TV) – The days of summer vacation and fun in the sun may be over for the season, but the hours spent in the sun over the last several months can take a toll on your skin. More than 120,000 new cases of melanoma, a very serious form of skin cancer, are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and if not treated early, can spread through the body.

Now, doctors are using electricity to help kill late-stage melanoma tumors.

First, the cancer cells are injected with a cancer-fighting drug. Then, short electrical pulses directed at the tumor cause the cancer cells' "pores" to open briefly. This allows the drug to enter the cancer cells.  This in turn causes the cell to produce proteins, which signal the body's immune system to attack the cancer cells.

“Ten percent of patients have complete regression of all tumors with no new tumors popping up," said Adil Daud, an oncologist at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

Early results showed that 95 percent of treated tumors responded to the treatment. In some cases, even other tumors in the body that were not directly targeted by the shocks shrunk in response to the treatment.

“You can make the tumor in essence cause its own destruction by getting the immune system to attack it," said Daud.

The therapy is also being tested on Merkel cell carcinoma and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma – both rare cancers.

Phase II clinical trials for the electrical treatment of metastic melanoma are currently underway and seeking patients.

Get Inside The Science:

Melanoma Treatment Shows Promise At UCSF

Adil Daud, UCSF School of Medicine

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Author Bio & Story Archive

Karin Heineman

Karin Heineman is the executive producer of Inside Science TV.